With summer here, and summer solstice here too... we are spending time outdoors in flip flops, shorts and cute bathings suits. Some of us joke about bathing suit shopping, while for some of us with teen body image issues, it is cringe-worthy and difficult. It may not be every day, but from time to time, we may have days when we doubt ourselves and do a double-take in the mirror. When we were younger, though, we thought nothing of heading to the pool in a bathing suit, so when and why did teen body image issues become so constant and negative? Is it the fault of media, or our changing bodies, or societal pressure? Why do we criticize ourselves and compare ourselves to others... and why do we listen to that voice in our heads, even when we know we shouldn't? We wanted to know if there was a way to squelch that voice and get back to our younger, more confident self, when we were always comfortable in our own skin, so we turned to Deborah Beck, our self-esteem expert:
“Your thighs are too fat, your breasts are too small/big, your stomach is too poochy, and you’re way too short/tall/big/etc....” With these thoughts in our head from time to time, geez, it’s amazing we go out in public at all! Why do we judge our bodies so harshly? Why do we listen to that little voice inside our heads that says the meanest things ever about our bodies? This voice is most active when we walk by a mirror or anything with a reflection, look at magazines, or try on clothes. Doesn’t it make you want to run and hide from that voice? Why is our younger self so confident, yet our teen body image so skewed and impressionable?
The problem is that voice is yours. You bought into those negative thoughts and agreed with them 100%. You have the judgments inside you even though it seems like they are on the outside. If you didn’t have the judgments inside you, the media wouldn’t phase you. If you didn’t have those judgments, your reflection in a mirror wouldn’t upset you and you wouldn’t even bring any attention to the way your thighs look when you sit down.
Let’s look at how that voice makes you feel. If you are constantly being told what is wrong with your body, you will feel embarrassment, shame, unimportance, worthlessness, and even separateness. It would be pretty hard to be an empowered young woman if this is how you felt, right? I don’t know anyone that would be okay with feeling this way. When we show up in the world and want to do big things, we have to be packed full of empowerment. Everything we do either empowers or disempowers us. Constant negative talk disempowers us.
Now let’s look at how you can stop that voice dead in its tracks. First, separate it and act like the voice is its own person and not you. Then every time this person (voice) says something to you that is hurtful about your body, you disagree with it. “No, my legs are perfect just the way they are.” If this voice is loud and obnoxious, you might have to say, “STOP! I’m not listening to you. My body is great.”
No matter how often this voice speaks, you disagree with it and tell it “no,” even if it is slamming you all day long. Our bodies are unique and beautiful in their own way, and not everyone has the same physical body. Love your body for what it is. Love your uniqueness, and celebrate what makes you... well, you! Embrace your physical you: your curves, embrace your height, embrace your thinness, embrace being petite.... physically you are who YOU are, and you should not be wishing to look like someone else!
How to love your body and overcome teen body image issues:
• Realize the judgments come from inside of you, not outside. • Disagree with that harsh voice and tell it that it is wrong (it may take practice). • Appreciate your body for all the good things it does for you, like play sports, run, walk, and carry you around all day. • Take care of yourself, eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, and pamper yourself. • Learn to love your body for its uniqueness. • Understand what makes you beautiful is what’s on the inside, not the outside.
Keep Loving Yourself, Debra
Teen and parenting mentor Debra Beck, has spent over 20 years working with teens and parents, she is a devoted mother, sought-after presenter, and author. She has helped thousands of girls develop their self esteem. She now runs her popular parenting website, EmpoweredTeensandParents.com, she encourages girls to be the best “young women” possible, and gives moms and dads the understanding they need to help their girls mature with pride and confidence. Her award-winning book “My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A Girl’s Guide to Loving Herself from the Inside Out”, has been revised and updated.